Everything You Need to Know about Neuropsychology

The brain and nervous system are complex. Brain health is especially important because the brain controls every other part of the body. The way the brain and nervous system affect cognition and behavior is a specialized field studied extensively by neuropsychologists.

Neuropsychologists work with people of all ages, from children to the elderly. Oftentimes, patients are referred to a neuropsychologist when a physician suspects a brain injury or a condition that affects cognitive function, emotion, or behavior.

What is neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is a specialized field of psychology and neurology. It’s a combined focus of both the mind and the brain. The brain itself is incredibly complex and neuropsychology is concerned with how a person’s nervous system and brain influence their cognition and behavior. Neuropsychology often addresses how injuries or illnesses can affect the brain and behavior.

This field became more widely known after World War II when doctors needed to treat veterans with head injuries. However, this field was first studied in the late 19th century. The first neuropsychologists studied animals and humans who had sustained brain and nervous system injuries.

What is a neuropsychologist?

A neuropsychologist is a psychologist who specializes in neuropsychology. They analyze how the nervous system and brain affect behavior and cognitive function.

To become a neuropsychologist, a doctorate in psychology is needed and then additional training in neuropsychology is needed for them to specialize in this field.

Depending upon the neuropsychologist’s specialty, they may work in a variety of places. If the neuropsychologist is interested in research, they may be employed by a university or in a research facility. Clinical neuropsychologists may work in private practices, hospitals, clinics, or physician offices.

Do neuropsychologists do therapy?

Neuropsychologists can do therapy, but it is often referred to other disciplines who specialize in the field needed. For example, they may make a referral to an occupational therapist, speech therapist, or psychologist.

The difference between a clinical psychologist and a neuropsychologist is that the clinical psychologist focuses on behaviors and emotions while the neuropsychologist focuses on the brain’s cognitive functions.

A neuropsychologist generally works with people who have chronic conditions that involve the brain, such as Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.), or patients who have had a stroke. Conversely, a clinical psychologist may work with patients who suffer from anxiety, mental illnesses, or depression.

What is a neuropsychological evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation is used to understand how the different areas of the brain and nervous system are working. These tests are normally done when there are issues with memory or thinking. Examples of symptoms that may lead to a neuropsychological evaluation include changes in concentration, memory loss, personality changes, problems with organizing, reasoning, language, perception, or coordination.

First, relevant medical history and patient information are thoroughly studied. The neuropsychologist will interview with the patient or family members who are knowledgeable about the patient’s condition.

The evaluation itself is a standardized test, meaning that it is given in the same way every single time, no matter the patient. The patient’s score is determined by comparing their results with those of a healthy individual with a similar demographic background.

The tests evaluate intelligence, attention, memory, language, sensorimotor functions, motivation, moods, emotions, personality, and executive functions. Some of the tests include oral questions, paper and pencil tasks, computers, and physical manipulation of materials. The neuropsychologist may use questionnaires to evaluate mood, emotional style, behavior, and personality.

This evaluation can take between two and five hours to complete. In especially complex issues, it can take up to eight hours to complete. After the test, the neuropsychologist will write a report which includes recommendations on how improvements can be made.

What does a neuropsychological evaluation tell you?

A neuropsychological evaluation can tell you a variety of things. The goal of this evaluation is to assess the patient’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the brain and nervous system. It can help with diagnosis and help the neuropsychologist create a personalized plan of treatment.

This evaluation can also be used to measure the effect of neurosurgical procedures to track progress and see if a specified treatment is working. The evaluation can provide a baseline and a guide to measure future tests against.

This test will help determine a patient’s I.Q. and help diagnose learning and psychological problems. It can also help measure general intellect and reading comprehension. The evaluation will measure the patient’s language usage and understanding as well as processing speed, memory, and concentration. The test can also give insight into the patient’s mood and personality. The test takes into account any physical factors including physical complaints.

Who might need a neuropsychological evaluation?

Someone may need a neuropsychological evaluation if they are experiencing problems with short-term memory, frequently repeat themselves, lose things, or are generally confused. If a person can’t remember what day it is, what year it is, or where they are– this is a good reason to be seen by a neuropsychologist and get a neuropsychological evaluation.

People who genetic conditions that affect the brain can also benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation. Examples include Down syndrome, neurofibromatosis, metabolic disorders, and velocardiofacial syndrome.

Other reasons someone may need this evaluation include poor attention and concentration, trouble speaking or finding the right words, visuospatial difficulties, poor decision-making skills, changes in personality, new difficulty with understanding tasks that weren’t a problem before, or not being able to recognize familiar people.

If any of the symptoms mentioned above are experienced, it’s important to be seen as soon as possible. The sooner any of these problems are identified and the sooner treatment can begin, the better outcome for the patient.

What are the responsibilities of a neuropsychologist?

The neuropsychologist’s responsibilities include diagnosing and treating patients suffering from neuropsychological problems. The neuropsychologist is often responsible for assessing, evaluating, diagnosing, and treating disordered that affect the brain or nervous system. They will also prescribe various treatments based on the patient’s needs. Neuropsychologists also perform neuropsychological evaluations.

What conditions does a neuropsychologist treat?

There are a variety of conditions that neuropsychologists treat. The brain can affect a lot of aspects of overall health. Some of these conditions include learning disorders, attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.), hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.

Neuropsychologists also treat conditions and illnesses such as endocrine disorders, brain tumors, brain cancer, epilepsy, seizure disorders, Klinefelter syndrome, sex chromosome abnormalities, and motor neuron diseases. They also treat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which generally affect the elderly population, but can affect younger people as well.

Athletes sometimes need the help of a neuropsychologist if they have suffered a sports concussion or injury related to the brain or nervous system. People who have suffered traumatic brain injuries can also receive treatment.

What is the difference between a neurologist and a neuropsychologist?

Neurologists and neuropsychologists are often confused as being the same thing, but they are not. Neurologists are medical doctors who usually use medication to treat neurological conditions such as epilepsy, muscular sclerosis, headaches, migraines, sleep issues, or even those who have experienced brain injuries.

In contrast, neuropsychologists treat cognitive, mental, and behavioral effects caused by brain injuries or disorders without the use of medications. With the use of neuropsychological evaluations, they can offer specific treatment interventions that can help improve cognitive function without medication.

How can a neuropsychologist help?

Since a neuropsychologist performs an extensive evaluation, they create a very personalized plan of treatment for the patient. They are able to properly diagnose and treat conditions regarding the brain and nervous system. With the help of a neuropsychologist, you may be able to return to normal life whether that’s at work or home, reduce the amount of pain you are in and better manage it, reduce emotional stress, and learn to self-regulate symptoms.

A Neuropsychological evaluation can be essential for determinations involving independent medical evaluations (IMEs), workman’s compensation claims, malpractice, legal capacity and competency decisions, pre-surgical evaluations, educational planning, and vocational planning.

What are the neuropsychologic treatments and interventions?

Neuropsychologists often use behavioral management as a treatment option. This can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), creating structured schedules, and more.

Cognitive rehabilitation and remediation interventions may also be used. This may include psychotherapy, neurofeedback, or other strategies to strengthen cognitive functions.

A neuropsychologist may recommend various cognitive strategies to improve cognitive functions. These strategies may include keeping a diary, a calendar, setting phone reminders, alarms, relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and other strategies to help compensate for the loss of cognitive abilities.

Summary

In summary, a neuropsychologist is someone who practices neuropsychology, which is a combined focus of both the mind and brain. Neuropsychologists can help anyone who is dealing with illnesses, injuries, or genetic conditions that involve the brain and cognition. They can provide a more holistic approach to managing symptoms and learning to live fully with whatever is affecting the patient’s mind or brain. Neuropsychologists will evaluate the overall health of the patient and provide a customized course of treatment that does not involve medication.